From star apprentice and history-making win in the Perth Cup, to a serious fall and a loss of confidence and opportunities.
Kyra Yuill has experienced the highs of lows of racing as much as anyone.
But in the past season the popular jockey has struck back with a vengeance and is enjoying renewed resurgence in the saddle.
Last Saturday at Ascot Yuill cracked the century mark of winners after combing with We’ve Got Dreams and Kia Ora Star.
It’s a remarkable achievement from Yuill and a tally that appeared unlikely at the commencement of the 2019-2020 racing season in August.
One person who has played a pivotal role in Yuill’s revival has been long-time friend and manager Daniel Cripps.
Julio Santarelli from Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) spoke to Cripps to gain an insight into Yuill’s spectacular past 10-months.
JS: How did you and Kyra form a professional relationship?
DC: My parents and her parents, Graham and Belinda, have been best friends before Kyra and I came around. Our dads were best men at each other’s weddings. Graham and Belinda are my god parents and Kyra’s brother Reece is the god son to my parents. We have been really close family friends for pretty much ever. Even though she (Kyra) was living in Dardanup and I was up north, we used to go on holidays every January to Dunsborough. Pretty much I have grown up with Kyra my whole life.
JS: Was racing a part of your family?
DC: Probably not so much horse racing. My parents and Kyra’s parents did a lot of horse riding, eventing, dressage and cross country. That’s how they formed their connection. They did all of that together when they were in their early to mid-20s. Once Graham got his trainers license that’s how he got into the racing industry. My great grandmother is Sheila Gwynne, she was one of the pioneers for women’s racing and my grandmother is Sally Oakes. She had a breeding farm as well. Mum and dad almost skipped a generation, like they didn’t have a lot of involvement in the horse racing side. I’ve sort of got into it through family connection and the love of betting and the love of horses.
JS: You have such rich family history in racing, when did your personal interest and involvement commence.
DC: As soon as I left school. I was always a mad keen punter and like anyone you are a weekend warrior. I liked to have a few bets on a Saturday. I guess it slowly evolved and since 2017 I’ve been taking it semi-professionally. I quit my full time job in finance in the middle of last year and have since being doing full time racing analysis which coincided with Kyra as well.
JS: Was it a natural fit that you would manage Kyra?
DC: I have to give a shout out to my close friend Dane Hollingworth who manages Mitch Pateman. They really set a blue print. Mitch was similar to Kyra, he was only getting a handful of rides down at Albany, he was almost a part time jockey and he wasn’t really riding many in the city. But within six months he went from being a casual rider in Albany to one of the best jockeys in WA. Kyra was doing the same, she was just riding part time and then she got her trainer’s license, she was part time training, part time riding. She was also working on her dads breaking business. I was chatting to Dane and he said if he could do it with Mitch I could do the same with Kyra. I rang her to express an interest and we said we will have a crack and if it didn’t work out it didn’t work out.
JS: It probably came at a good time for her. Professionally was she at a low ebb?
DC: She wasn’t down in the dumps or anything, but I guess she was only getting a handful of rides, in Kalgoorlie and Broome, but pretty much wasn’t getting any rides in the city, she was just battling away. From a riding point of view she was at one of her lowest points I guess.
JS: Were your initial goals modest to begin with?
DC: At the start we didn’t set any goals, we just said let’s see how it goes. She is the best jockey to manage because she said send me anywhere. She never complains about what horses she gets on, where she has to travel to, she is just a hard worker. I had a real free role in that sense, she said here is the trainer’s directory, talk to anyone and everyone. I remember the first few month’s we were still only getting 25 to 30 rides a month and then it’s funny how it slowly builds. You might make 9 calls and not have any luck, then the tenth call you get a ride and if she happens to win it has a real snow-ball effect. We thought if we could ride 50 winners for the season that would be unbelievable and all of a sudden it took off and now we have cracked the 100 mark.
JS: Before your involvement was Kyra ever at the crossroads as a jockey, almost a sense that this is the last roll of the dice because of the lack of opportunities in Perth?
DC: I reckon it was. She was having just enough success to say I will give it one more go. Whether she was going to give it way I wasn’t sure, but I think she thought she was going to do everything she could to make the most of this opportunity I guess
JS: What would you say is her best asset?
DC: Her number one thing is her work ethic. She is unbelievable in what she does, not only does she travel the most out of any jockey in WA, she rides a lot of track work in Bunbury, but the main thing people don’t realise is she actually works all of her dad’s breakers. So she breaks horses for Bob Peters and all the big trainers, all the big owners in the mornings, she might be riding 15 breakers, and they are the hardest horse to ride. No one sees that behind the scenes. She is always smiley, bubbly, has a big smile on her face and she is like that all the time. I call her the smiling assassin because deep down she is one of the more competitive people you will meet. She probably doesn’t come across like that all the time, but she hates getting beaten, she wants to win every race she rides in.
JS: She loves travelling for rides.
DC: She realised if she was going to come back to be right up there in the riding ranks that it had to happen. She wasn’t going to get seven in town every week, she knew she had to put in the hard yards, but she has had great supporters along the way. We made a great connection with Graeme Hammarquist in Geraldton which has been huge. I don’t think she had ridden for him too much. I gave him a call before the season started and said Kyra is keen to come up all season, I’m looming for a trainer who will support her and he was awesome. He said straight away no worries and every week she had four or five rides at Geraldton and that set her up. Now they have a really good relationship.
JS: She looks to be riding with renewed confidence. She sits well on the saddle.
DC: I wasn’t in the racing industry when she was absolutely flying as an apprentice. I hadn’t seen first-hand how good a jockey she was and how much potential she had, but it’s even surprised me how well she is riding at the moment. I was with Terry Leighton the other day, a respected form analyst and he said on his podcast last week that he rates her at the moment as a top five jockey in Perth which is a huge wrap for her. She sits well, she looks aesthetically pleasing on a horse, she is always strong through the line and the one thing she has improved on this season is that she is prepared to sit her horses closer or race them right on speed. Probably as an apprentice she rode a lot for Bob Peters who has that get back run on style, that’s where she learnt her craft. But when you are not riding the Ferrari’s of WA racing you can’t win by sitting in the back of the field. This season she is happy to show intent out of the gates and put them right on speed. It’s paying dividends for her.
JS: Did she suffer a major loss of confidence after a serious fall a few years back?
DC: She did. She had bleeding on the brain and I think she had three months out of the saddle. She even admits to me now she didn’t realise at the time, but it had an immense impact on her confidence. There were gaps she used to take and all of a sudden she was second guessing herself. It’s a long way in the rear vision mirror now.
JS: There is no lack of confidence now.
DC: Jockeys are no different to footballers or any other sportsperson. When they have confidence and when they are in the zone, I just think it happen for them. Michael Lane has been one of her biggest supporters. She rides a lot of track work for him during the week. He always said if her form warrants it he was prepared to give her the opportunity. He has been great for her and now has the confidence to put her on one of his stable stars Resortman. Chris Parnham is his number one jockey but Kyra rode Resortman on debut and even though Chris is back she got to keep it. Not only that, he gave her a ride in the Perth Cup which she had not ridden in since 2010. That shows you his support. She has total confidence in herself at the moment.
JS: Is she a great form student?
DC: We speak a lot about form actually, we speak at length for most meetings, pretty much go over ever runner. The biggest kick I get out of managing her is when we come up with a game plan to win a race and it goes to plan. I really love that part of it. She is a student of the game, we love bouncing ideas of each other and speak on the phone at length most days. Even after the races she will ring and go through what went right and what went wrong. I’m infatuated with racing and so is she. We live and breathe it.
JS: You have cracked a century of winners. Do you reassess further goals? Is your phone running hot these days?
DC: The transition to get regular rides in the city probably hasn’t happened as quickly as what I would have thought, but it’s been a gradual process. The phone does ring a little bit more and I would like it a lot more. I think she just has to keep producing on the track and I have to keep making those calls and find as many opportunities as I can, it will happen. We never really had goals at the start of the season except 50 wins. I feel we are still in that mindset of taking everything as it comes. We might look back at the end of the season and think about how we can make next season even bigger and better. At the moment she is enjoying the ride and loving every bit of it-and I’m loving it too.
JS: I don’t think anyone could begrudge the success she is currently experiencing
DC: She is persistence personified and has never given up. She just keeps having a crack. Even though she is still enjoying opportunities in town she still loves going to Kalgoorlie, loves going to Geraldton. Just because she has got back in Perth she is pretty keen to keep riding in the country. She loves her country racing
JS: Are you open to managing other jockeys? What are your plans?
DC: I’m open to it, but not actively seeking other jockeys. I’m pretty busy as I have just started up my new tipping company, busy organising that. I’ve got plenty on my plate, maybe one day down the track, but I’m really enjoying managing Kyra with that close family connection. One is enough for now.
JS: There has been a lot spoken and written about Kyra, but thank you in providing another insight into her career. Good luck and continued success.
DC: Sounds good, thank you.